Published in the Rains County Leader on July 26, 2016:
I first wrote this as a blog four years ago, but I edited and updated it for my City Girl column this week and thought I’d share it with you.
I’ve had a love/hate relationship with make-up most of my life. The only time Dad ever spanked me was because of lipstick. I was five, and like most little girls, I was fascinated by all the neat stuff Mom put on her face. One day I asked permission to put on some lipstick, but for some adult reason, she said no. Forbidden fruit is always the most tempting, so when she wasn’t looking, I did the one thing I had been told not to do. I’m not sure how I expected to get away with my crime with the evidence smeared all over my face, and I didn’t. Not an auspicious beginning.
I couldn’t wait to use make-up. Mom said I had to wait until I was thirteen, but fate was on my side. When I was eleven, I had a particularly unpleasant bout of tonsillitis, and a blood vessel ruptured in my throat. While not life threatening, the event left me with a ghostly pallor. I was ecstatic when, after my recovery, Mom took me to buy lipstick. It wasn’t long before I encountered the negative side of make-up. My lip color seemed to disappear into thin air, and Mom let me know when it was gone.
“Linda, you look pale. Go put on some lipstick.”
Before, I had been a cute little girl who needed nothing more than a smile, but now I was a young lady who needed the help of artificial color to be acceptable. Teen magazines and peer pressure did their work, and I was soon wearing foundation, blush, and a full complement of eye make-up. Through the years I became a full-blown Merle Norman addict, and it took me forty-five minutes to achieve the “natural look” before I set foot outside the house.
Sometime later, I became a member of The Rich-Tones, a ladies barber shop chorus. Martha passed her audition the same night I did, and since we lived close to each other, we car pooled to rehearsal and became friends. Martha didn’t share my need to hide behind a mask, and one Saturday morning she performed an intervention. My doorbell rang at 8:00 am, and there she was.
“Get your shoes on. We’re hitting some garage sales.”
“But I haven’t put on my make-up.”
“That’s okay. You look fine.”
I slipped on some shoes, grabbed my purse, and palmed a mascara wand. As soon as I was in the car, I flipped down the visor, but before I could get the mascara to my lashes, Martha slapped my hand.
“Put that thing away. You look fine.”
We had a great time, and no children ran screaming to their mothers at the sight of my naked face. It was the first step in breaking free from my addiction.
The Rich-Tones also helped in an unexpected way. We wore some dramatic looks for performances, and one costume called for pink and purple eye shadow. During a trip to the Sweet Adelines International Contest, I spent most of five days in full stage make-up and came home with itchy, crusty eyelids.
I did what any good addict would do. I went to my supplier, my Merle Norman sales lady. She said it was probably an allergy to red dyes, and that I should avoid the pink and purple shadows. I stayed in the chorus and itched for another year or so, but my personal color palette was forever depleted and my total dependence on hiding behind an artificial face was also lessened.
Martha was good for my confidence, but David was the one who really convinced me that I was acceptable as I am. He told me I was beautiful before I put on my face, and he never complained when my lipstick faded. When we first traveled by motorcycle, I kept up my morning routine, but he would look at me and ask why I was “putting that stuff on.” After a few experiences with mascara running down my cheeks or gnats sticking in my foundation, I decided he was right and settled for moisturizer with sunscreen. Once you’ve “come out” in one situation, it’s easier to do so in others. Make-up became more of a choice than a necessity, and make-up time dwindled from forty-five to ten minutes.
In the last few years, age has taken a hand in loosening the final bonds of my addiction. Once my regular foundation began to collect in the lines and creases on my face, I settled on a tinted moisturizer.
A year or so ago, the itching eyelids returned. I wasn’t wearing make-up very often, usually Sundays and special occasions. When I did, though, my eyes watered and itched, so I took it off as soon as possible. I tried hypoallergenic mascara and eye-liner, but my eyes still itched.
One Sunday, my eyes were burning so badly after morning services that I took off my make-up when I got home. I didn’t reapply it before going back that night for Bible study and a church cook-out, and no one seemed to notice. That was more or less the death of my addiction. Since then, I’m pretty much back to where I was at eleven-years-old – a touch of lipstick and maybe some blush. I’ve decided to work on the kind of beauty Peter talked about:
Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. I Peter 3:3-4
A LONG AND WINDING ROAD: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos